Updated January 18, 2021Although to most of us, the idea of going to sleep is wonderful and what we look forward to, the mere thought of going to sleep is dreadful and even terrifying for others. Somniphobia is a sleep disorder causing extreme anxiety around going to sleep. The condition is also called hypnophobia, clinophobia, sleep anxiety, and sleep dread.People with somniphobia associate fear, stress, and dread with trying to sleep, consequently making it harder to sleep. The consequential sleep deprivation can cause adverse mental and physical effects, including memory loss, weakened immunity, and weight gain.Here’s what you need to know about somniphobia, including symptoms, diagnosis, causes, and treatment options.Signs and Symptoms of SomniphobiaGood quality sleep is essential for your health, but for those with somniphobia, getting to sleep can be near-impossible. The lack of sleep from somniphobia, along with anxious thoughts, can lead to both physical and mental health consequences. “If you have a severe fear of sleep, you might already know it—but you may not know that it has a name and can be a common experience,” says Dr. Jessee Dietch, a clinical health psychologist with a specialization in behavioral sleep medicine.The psychological symptoms of somniphobia include:Increasing feelings of dread or distress as bedtime nearsFeeling anxious and fearful at the thought of sleepingExperiencing panic attacks when you have to sleepDealing with memory lossIrritability or mood swingsDifficulty concentrating on anything besides sleep anxietyThese stressful thoughts and the lack of sleep put extreme stress on your body. The physical symptoms of somniphobia are:Nausea due to stress and anxietyIncreased heart rate and tightness in the chest when thinking about sleepingSweating, hyperventilation, or having chills at the thought of sleepingHeightened stress hormones, such as cortisolAmong children, crying, clinginess, and refusing to sleepChronic fatigue and daytime sleepinessDiagnosis of SomniphobiaMental health professionals can identify somniphobia and can also guide you through treatment. You may be diagnosed with somniphobia if your fear or anxiety about sleep:Affects your sleep qualityCauses you to avoid sleep for as long as possibleNegatively impacts your physical or mental healthCauses chronic anxiety around sleepLeads to work, school, or personal problemsPersists longer than six monthsCauses of SomniphobiaThere are several potential triggers for somniphobia. The potential causes of somniphobia can vary significantly from person to person, though other sleep disorders and mental health conditions may play a role.Chronic NightmaresMost people experience the occasional nightmare, but when you have nightmares very regularly, it can cause you to develop a fear of sleep in order to avoid more disturbing dreams.Children, in particular, may dread sleeping because they fear having nightmares.Sleep ParalysisThose who frequently experience sleep paralysis can develop somniphobia. Sleep paralysis is a sleep disorder where a person wakes up and is unable to move their body as though they are paralyzed. People who have experienced sleep paralysis often note seeing or hearing strange and terrifying hallucinations, causing them to fear sleeping to avoid this occurrence.SleepwalkingSleepwalking is the most common parasomnia where sleepers unconsciously get up and walk around. Some sleepwalkers can injure themselves, sometimes so severely that they have to be hospitalized, without even realizing it.The fear of getting badly injured while sleepwalking can turn into a fear of sleeping in the first place, especially for individuals who live alone.Sleep TalkingSleep talking is rather common and usually harmless. However, some chronic sleep talkers start worrying about what they might say while they’re asleep, thus leading to an aversion to sleeping.InsomniaInsomnia is a very common sleep disorder marked by the inability to fall or stay asleep. Somniphobia can develop from insomnia because some people might stress and get anxious over the looming idea of struggling to sleep later in the evening. In turn, it causes insomnia sufferers to dread going to bed at all.Depression and AnxietyIndividuals who suffer from an anxiety disorder or a depressive disorder may also develop somniphobia.Anxiety and depression sufferers may already have trouble falling asleep and face nightmares. They may also worry about their lack of control while they’re asleep. Sufferers might worry about the coming day, thus losing hours of sleep.When you put all of these worries together, it can cause those with anxiety and depression to dread sleep because sitting alone in the dark only feeds their negative and anxious thoughts.PTSDAfter a traumatic event that results in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), some individuals may develop somniphobia. PTSD episodes are rather common at nighttime and can lead to nightmares. As a result, PTSD sufferers may develop anxiety around sleep due to a fear of episodes, a lack of control or vigilance while sleeping, and a fear of experiencing nightmares.Fear of DeathSome people may worry about falling asleep and never waking up again. While the thought is morbid, the fear of death (thanatophobia) can plague the minds of people with somniphobia.If you suffer from other sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, you may have a fear of death as well.Sleep apnea, a condition where you start and stop breathing while sleeping, can be life-threatening in some cases, even with a CPAP machine. Sufferers may worry about the machine failing and their breathing stopping, potentially causing them not to wake up.Somniphobia TreatmentNot every phobia requires treatment, but when it’s causing sleep deprivation and physical and mental issues, it’s important to seek help. For milder somniphobia, it’s okay to start with home treatments and see how you respond. However, if there’s no improvement, it may be time to reach out to a doctor.Improve Sleep HygieneImproving your sleep habits can help to prevent anxiety around sleep. Patients can improve their sleep hygiene on their own or with the help of their doctor or therapist. However, it is unlikely that sleep hygiene will act as a sufficient treatment for a sleep disorder on its own.Practicing good sleep hygiene includes following a sleep schedule, limiting caffeine, having a dark and quiet bedroom, and avoiding long naps during the day.Another aspect of sleep hygiene involves having a nighttime routine to help you wind down before bed, such as taking a bath, reading a book, or washing your face. These calming rituals can potentially ease your mind and anxiety to help you fall asleep.Relaxation TechniquesBefore bed, try practicing deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery to help ease your anxiety. You may do so before even your bedroom to relieve tension.If your child is the one dealing with somniphobia, reading them a cozy and positive bedtime story can calm them down and leave them feeling safe before bed.You can also give your child a nightlight if sleeping in the dark is contributing to their fear of sleep. Another option is to leave their bedroom door slightly ajar with a hallway light on so they know they’re not alone at night.MedicationThere’s no specific medication to treat phobias, but certain medications can reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Note that some medications prescribed by doctors for somniphobia are typically used in unison with therapy.Your psychiatrist may prescribe a sleep aid, beta-blockers, or benzodiazepines for temporary relief while in treatment.Beta-blockers relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety by maintaining a steady heart rate and blood pressure.Benzodiazepines are a sedative drug class designed to relieve anxiety symptoms, panic attacks, insomnia, and depression.TherapyIn cases of severe somniphobia, your doctor may suggest you see a therapist to work through your fear. Some possible forms of therapies to treat somniphobia include:Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you identify and work through your anxieties surrounding sleep. Your therapist will also teach you how to challenge anxious thoughts.Exposure therapy is where you and your therapist work to gradually expose yourself to your fear of sleep in a controlled setting while also working to reduce your anxiety.While in treatment, your therapist may recommend developing a regular sleep schedule where you wake up and sleep at the same time each night. This helps your body develop a natural sleep pattern (circadian rhythm) and may promote more regular and restful sleep.FAQsHow common is somniphobia?There are no exact statistics on somniphobia, but it seems rather rare based on what researchers know. Also, somniphobia affects children more than adults, but the condition isn’t necessarily age-specific.Can somniphobia be cured?Short-term remedies such as medications or deep breathing can ease somniphobia symptoms temporarily. However, with the help of therapy, you and your therapist can treat somniphobia.Why am I scared of sleeping alone?Your fear of sleeping alone may be due to somniphobia or other types of anxiety or panic disorders. For those who are new to sleeping alone, your fear of it may be because you’re not familiar with this new environment.Regardless of the cause, try relieving your fears through deep breathing or positive journaling before bed. If nothing seems to help, it may be worth contacting a therapist to work on your somniphobia together.Why am I afraid of the dark?The fear of darkness (nyctophobia) typically begins in childhood and is rather normal. Studies around the fear of darkness suggest humans are afraid of the dark because of the lack of visual stimuli, meaning people are afraid because they can’t see what’s around them.Somniphobia and nyctophobia are different, but they do have similar symptoms, such as shortness of breath, sweating, and increased heart rate. Also, nyctophobia can potentially make it harder to sleep since it’s dark at bedtime.Why is my anxiety worse in the evening?During the day, you may work, go to school, or hang out with friends, all of which distract you from your anxiety. At night, there are fewer distractions to keep your mind off of any anxious thoughts. So, when you’re laying in bed in the dark with nothing to keep your anxiety at bay, you may feel more anxious.Overcoming Your SomniphobiaSleep is vital for your brain health, heart functions, and weight management, and avoiding sleep can severely affect your well-being. If you’re struggling with sleep phobia, taking the necessary steps to improve your sleep, whether it be through therapy or improving your sleep routine, will eventually improve your health as a whole.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. 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